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US Backs Guyana as Tensions Rise Over Contested Essequibo Region

The United States reaffirmed its support of Guyana amid a growing dispute with neighboring Venezuela over the oil-rich Essequibo region.

Both countries claim the region, but it has been administered by Guyana since 1899 and represents two-thirds of its territory. Tensions rose over the weekend when Venezuela held a referendum in which the country voted overwhelmingly to establish a new state in Essequibo.

A ruling is pending from the International Court of Justice over the jurisdiction of the region, though Venezuela voted in the referendum to reject the ICJ’s jurisdiction.

Following the results of the referendum, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered oil companies operating under Guyana’s authority to halt operations in Essequibo within three months.

Guyana has questioned the legitimacy of the Venezuelan referendum. President Irfaan Ali said he would put the country’s troops on high alert and that he was in contact with Guyana’s partners, including the U.S., which announced joint flight drills with the Guyanese military.

Ali spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who reaffirmed the unwavering U.S. support for Guyana’s sovereignty and called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

A group of U.S. senators also released a bipartisan statement condemning the Maduro regime in Venezuela and its actions toward Guyana.

Venezuela’s “petulant saber rattling against Guyana” showed that the Maduro regime, “far from taking steps towards the meaningful return of democracy, is moving towards an even more brutal dictatorship,” their statement said.

Analysts in Caracas suggest that Maduro used the referendum as a way to show strength and gauge support ahead of a reelection bid next year, rather than a genuine prelude to military action.

Source: VOA